Nursing a bad hangover? Singapore chefs reveal their fail-proof remedies
These food experts tell CNA Lifestyle about their go-to cures, including McDonald’s and Coke, spicy pasta… and brandy?
After a night on the town that’s gone a bit too well, a penitent reveller feels the pressing need for a bodily restorative.
Apart from gallons of water and the oiliest bowl of bak chor mee you can get your intoxicated hands on, what can you shove into your system to help you feel human again?
Some of the best people to take hangover cure advice from are probably those who work in a professional kitchen, since they’re always out late, have to stumble back onto their feet the next day and, presumably, know exactly what you should be putting into your body for the intended effect.
Everyone has a different remedy they swear by, but lots of these prescriptions have common characteristics. For instance, it’s no surprise that many cures contain carbohydrates and sugars, which helps restore balance after a hangover has caused your blood sugar levels to drop.
Here is a handbook of personal go-to hangover-slaying remedies from Singapore chefs and restaurateurs.
EMANUELE FAGGI, ZAFFERANO
McDonald’s and Coke. I always order the McChicken burger meal, with fries and Coke Zero. The fats and carbohydrates “absorb” the alcohol in your body. And Coke is known to calm your stomach and help you digest better. I always feel much better as soon as I have it.
I discovered this cure when I started going out. In Italy, when you turn 18, you start driving and you start drinking. When you return late at night from a club or drinking session, it is almost a tradition to stop for colazione or breakfast before heading home, no matter what time it is.
People usually eat brioche or focaccia depending on which region of Italy you are in, but lately, more people are going to McDonald’s because it’s always readily available wherever you are.
Once, when I was in my 20s, I went dancing with a big group of friends in Versilia, a famous coastal town in Tuscany. On our way home, we stopped at McDonald’s. After everyone had finished eating, we went back to our cars and headed home. 15 minutes later, I received a call from a friend whom we had accidentally left behind! Needless to say, he was not very happy with us.
TOSHIO SAWAI, KUSHIKATSU TANAKA
In Japan, Niku Udon Sui or beef noodle soup has been a popular hangover remedy ever since Kyo Hanaki, an actor from the comedy show Yoshimoto Shinkigeki, ordered the dish at a restaurant when he was suffering from a hangover.
The soup has a delicate taste with the punch of bonito flavour. It comes with plenty of beef on top and can be eaten with udon noodles or without.
There is an article in The Daily Mail about how scientists have now hailed a beef and noodle soup as the perfect hangover remedy, saying that its healing properties after a heavy night are based on scientific fact.
DENNIS SMIT, NEON PIGEON
On a recent trip to Japan, I found that after a good night of drinking sake and sochi, a perfectly brewed matcha tea will ease the stomach the next day.
When the hunger hits after the hangover, I love to make a good sandwich. But as you might know, us chefs don’t just make a sandwich – we tend to go a bit over the top.
I use a good sourdough bread, preferably grilled; then go all in with the toppings – iceberg lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo, tomato ketchup, old Amsterdam cheese, pickles, ham, a boiled egg and most importantly, fried bacon!
HOWARD LO, EMPIRE EATS GROUP
For a light hangover, I just have water in the morning and try to shake it off and power through.
For a medium hangover, I have steamed egg and sweet and sour pork from the mixed rice stall, and a stint on the rowing machine to sweat it out.
For a big hangover, order KFC – original of course, spicy is just going to mess your stomach up more – but only a couple of pieces, else the stomach flips out.
When I was much younger, after a particularly heavy night of drinking, my friend and I drove to a KFC to get food the next day. We sat outside on the curb – this was in an American suburb – and we were chowing down on the fried chicken when my friend stopped, turned his head, leaned over, and threw up. Then he resumed eating the chicken. As grossed out as I was by this, the chicken really was making me feel better.
I also remember that about a year ago, I was so hung over that I didn’t realise I had ordered KFC delivery already, so I ended up with two eight-piece buckets. Clearly, I wasn’t going to waste chicken, so I ate it for every meal for the next two or three days, and at that point, I learned what a fried chicken hangover was like, which is arguably worse than alcohol hangover.
JUSTIN HAMMOND, SUMMERLONG
One of my certified fixes is adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda or baking powder into a glass of water. It helps with nausea and balances the increase of acids in the stomach that has been cause by the alcohol consumption – in other words, it helps keep your body alkaline.
When it comes to food, the weirdest hangover combo I have ever made was sweet corn pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup with a dark, rich chocolate cocoa. It didn’t help any more or less – it was just something I was craving at the moment, which was weird because I don’t usually think of sweets when I’m hung over.
When I was younger, I used to crave KFC; fries with gravy; toasted cheese, bacon and onion sandwiches; and more alcohol. Now that I’m older, I crave sashimi – I think it’s the Omega-3 rich oils – lean chicken breast and avocado, green vegetables, tea, and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices – and more alcohol, still!
LEE BOON SENG, THE SPOT
I go for brandy when I need speed, and coconut water when I prefer something softer.
When I was still quite a junior cook, I learnt about the brandy remedy from my seniors. We used to go out drinking after work. The seniors would really go for it, and the next day, they would experience serious hangovers. If they had to work, they would sip brandy every few hours.
Brandy, although it always tastes terrible when you have a hangover, no matter what kind – is very helpful for suppressing headaches and dizziness. I think it works similarly to the idea of quitting an addiction slowly as opposed to going cold turkey. The brandy helps the body adjust slowly, bit by bit, to normal. It only takes a few minutes to feel the difference – although, to be honest, you’ll start to feel the symptoms again after a few hours.
Coconut water has nutrients and sugar in it to help replace what’s lost in your body when you get drunk. I discovered it as a cure in my foolish younger days, when my friends and I liked to go out and party all night long, then head for supper.
An uncle from a Malay stall we liked to go to taught us about drinking fresh coconut water for hangovers. He said our bodies needed something soft and sweet to rehydrate. When I’m hung over, coconut water tastes even better than usual.
DANIELE SPERINDIO, ATLAS
Ever since I can remember, after a big night out, my go-to hangover meal, like every good Italian, is to have some carbs. In my case, it’s some spicy arrabbiata pasta with plenty of garlic, followed by several litres of water.
Having spicy food isn’t recommended during a hangover because it may irritate the stomach, but it could be pretty good if you can naturally tolerate it – which shouldn’t be difficult living in Singapore.
OLIVER TRUESDALE-JUTRAS, OPEN FARM COMMUNITY
A concoction of ginger juice, lemon juice, honey and vodka if necessary. It’s like pouring electricity into your system.
When I was a dishwasher in the early days of my career, I was still in high school, doing what high school kids do. One Sunday, a server took pity on my situation and helped me out with this little concoction.
I think the sugar is an obvious help to your energy levels, the acidity is a serious wake up call to your face and nervous system, and the ginger gives the additional kick necessary to keep you from forgetting you just got a boost. Also, natural sugars are more easily absorbed through the mouth and more quickly into the bloodstream, which is imperative for a fast acting relief agent.
Remarkably, I saw a pretty close relative recently at a juice bar, sold as an “immuno-booster”. So, hopefully, some of the science is real!